I like to pretend I have self-esteem. When you see me on the street you’d probably think, “Gee, what a confident woman, she has nice shoes.”
And I’ll let you think that until you pop THE question and then I’ll promptly obliterate that presumption from your mind.
My collapse starts when the conversation between myself and you, a stranger, turns to the query, “What do you do for a living?” This puts me in a tight spot, because I’m in show biz which is very different than being a lawyer, teacher or a computer programmer. Once I reply “actor,” I must brace myself for your follow-up questions which are really attempts to find out: “Are you famous? Successful? Important?”
And that, my new friends, is a very difficult question to ask someone who feels like a demented hobbit who shouldn’t be let out of a cage. “Look in the mirror each day and forgive yourself,” I once heard on The View. All I can muster is a faint smile before the creature in my reflection flicks her viper tongue and belches in my face.
You stand there expectantly and innocently, waiting for my answer. You poor, unimpeachable soul. It was your guileless curiosity that led you to the entrance of my deranged rabbit hole and now it’s too late to escape.
I feel terribly guilty about what I know is about to happen, but can’t stop the choo-choo train of self-destruction. In that millisecond between hearing the question and answering I might briefly consider a deep breathing exercise or a mantra from Deepak, but the breaks on this train don’t exist.
The hobbit inside me finally breaks free from the holding pen and I launch into my response, which is akin to how a peppy PR rep might make a pitch if she was on a diet of Triple Grande Lattes and crack. I get jumpy, speak really fast, drop names you don’t know and wildly use my hands to give my words more authority. Internally my stomach is swirling in uncertainty and paranoia, I’m floating in a sea of anxiety.
You sense my discomfort and try to make me feel at ease by talking about a cousin that just made a film or an aunt who was on Broadway. If this relation is so much as one rung higher than me on the show-biz totem pole, my mania will increase tenfold. The hobbit whispers sweet self-hate-isms in my ear like a banshee. “You’re a loser and now everyone will knoooowww!”
At this point my grand finale is inevitable during which I’ll mention at least one reason why I assert -- and insist! -- that I’m not as successful as your friend or relative. “My agent!” “The industry!” And my favorite, “We’re always one project away from hitting it big....[in a high, squeaky voice] ...right?”
This forces the listener to take the role of the cheerleader, which my partner wearies of being because he moonlights so often as the pick-me-up-from-the-depths-of-self-hate person that it’s not fair of me to ask him for continual boosting.
I leave that to strangers.
It would be nice to like myself enough that I don’t care what strangers might think when I tell them the ultimate truth: I create projects that bring the audience joy and I’m proud of that.
Sometimes it seems that to transform to that healthy mindset would take a trilogy worthy of Tolkien.
Lauren LoGiudice is a writer and performer based in NYC. Her recent project Garbo Dreams is based on Greta’s last days alone in her apartment.
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